Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Mohsin Hamid

Summary: At a café table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with an uneasy American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful encounter . . .

Changez is living an immigrant’s dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by the elite "valuation" firm of Underwood Samson. He thrives on the energy of New York, and his infatuation with elegant, beautiful Erica promises entry into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore.

But in the wake of September 11, Changez finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned, and his budding relationship with Erica eclipsed by the reawakened ghosts of her past. And Changez’s own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and maybe even love. (cover photo from www.harcourtbooks.com/reluctant_fundamentalist, summary from book)

My Review: To open this book is to walk in on a private conversation, but a conversation where you will hear only one side. You instantly know what you are hearing told is important and that it will change your thinking in some way. Yet the intensity is broke up with small bits of casual conversation and even the attempt at humor. This is the interesting writing style Hamid has chosen for this much talked about novel.

The account you will hear is that of a Muslim business man living in New York City during the 9/11 attacks. A powerful account that will leave one considering the other side and the prejudice that occurred after such attacks, mild as it may seem but there nonetheless. Considering that the author grew up in Pakistan and attended college at Princeton and Harvard, there is little doubt that many of the thoughts and emotions described within this novel are autobiographic.

Mixed into this political tale is a love story. Actually it's more of a one sided love story of a boy who falls for the American girl who is already in love with someone else and although the other man is entirely unattainable she won't let the dream go. There is a hidden irony of this love story and the similarity it has with the Muslim boy's love for America. If fact there are many thought provoking metaphors built within this book. Suspense is built into the novel in the form of suspicion between the two conversing, which directly relates to today's fears American's have of Pakistan and visa verse. This book is a mere 184 pages yet there is so much more to this story than what these few pages hold.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

If I had to sum it up in one sentence it would be: A cleverly told story that will leave the reader with much to reflect upon.


MindySue said...

So what about this book made you give it a 3.5 versus a 4? Just curious?

Heather said...

This is a book that I would recommend to some but not a lot of people I know. I just don't think it would hold the interest of many.
Also I have given many 4's lately and, while this is a good book, I didn't enjoy it as much as I did the others.


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